Mineral Ridge woman begins garden seeds in February

MINERAL RIDGE — When planting a garden, there are two choices: seeds, or plants. Angela Stevens decided to start her flowers and vegetables from seeds this year.

“I chose all seeds because I wanted particular colors,” she said. “I have always had a love for flowers. I didn’t always plant them, though.”

Starting from seeds “is not as hard as it sounds. The trick is to buy quality seeds and just follow the directions,” Stevens said.

Her Burpee starter packet came with little pellets that just needed water added and they expanded. “I checked on my plants every day. I made sure they were warm. I made sure they had water.

“If I can do it, everyone can. It was not very hard but it does take some time and work. If you are willing to do the work, you can easily start your garden flower or vegetable,” she said. “You have to learn what you need. Find out what works for you.”

Stevens said gardening is relaxing. “If you find something you enjoy doing, see what you can do and start,” she said. “I just got into planting a few years ago.”

Her husband works 12-hour shifts and it gives her something to do during her empty nest phase. Angela, 51, and her husband, Michael, 61, were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1997. Together, they have five grown children.

“Gardening keeps me busy and out of trouble. The flowers are pretty. I like the smell. I come out and water them and take care of them. I sit back and enjoy my flowers.”

She said her favorite flower are roses, “but they are a little difficult to grow and temperamental.”

She relishes the time sitting out on her front porch looking at her petunias and the birds. She has three large bird feeders out there as well. “As long as I keep the birds fed, they do not eat my plants.”

The couple have been living in their Mineral Ridge home for 14 years. They met while working at Oakes Foundry. “He wasn’t my direct boss but he was one of the other bosses,” she said.

Angela works at Miller Family Insurance in Niles. Michael works at Arconic, which is the old RMI plant.

Angela does all the planting. Michael does all the building of her planting boxes and accessories. “I started using boxes, because it was getting harder and harder to get down on the ground and weed,” she said.

“When I told him I wanted to start my plants and flowers from seeds this year, he said, ‘Find out what you need to do and I’ll build you a hot house downstairs.’ I now have a greenhouse in my basement,” she said.

He also built her a planting station down there as well.

Basically, the hot house is plastic made into a curtain, grow lights from Home Depot, a timer and shelves that were already in their basement.

“We used T-12 lights. It really did not affect our electric bill that much.” The lights were on for eight hours a day. She used eight watering trays she purchased from Burpee.com. Each tray holds 72 plants and costs around $20.

“They are self-watering. All I have to do is put the water in the bottom and they water themselves.” She added water once a week.

She uses a round plastic seeder to plant the seeds. “The bigger seeds I did not have to worry about. But the petunia seeds are so tiny, you need tweezers and a magnifying glass to plant them.”

Angela said she planted 576 plants in her new in-house greenhouse — peppers, cherry top, butter boy and aroma tomatoes, and her flowers.

“The vegetables are already gone. I have taken them to my sister’s place in Southington.” She does have some blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries behind her house.

Angela said she doesn’t have a favorite plant. “I am still learning, I go to the greenhouse, and whatever catches my eye, that’s what I got.” A lot of ideas come from Pinterest. Her seeds come from Burpee.

She started her petunias and the vegetables in February. “The only thing I am planting next year in February is my petunias. Everything else I am planting in late March. Some (of my tomato plants) got so big I had to transport them in peat pots. You learn as you go.”

She uses a mixture of potting and garden soil.

“I did not get 100 percent success but I did get quite a bit of success. Most everything has worked. I posted pictures on Facebook of my plants’ progress this year.” She had approximately a 90 percent rate of germination.

Angela does not mind getting her hands dirty one bit. “I started out wearing gloves but I always ended up taking them off. Well, I have little hands and skinny fingers. Trying to find gloves that fit right doesn’t always work.”

She did purchase one plant this year. “I bought a popcorn plant. It gets a real big yellow flower. It’s native to Africa. I bought it to attract butterflies.”

She has a hummingbird feeder that the bees rather like as well. “The bees pollinate the flowers.”